Many people are aware that cats can sometimes appear contrary and finicky, yet everything is normal with their overall health. There are times, however, when feline behavior signals something beyond the routine. Certain changes in your cat’s eating and drinking habits, as well as their activity level, may signify symptoms of feline diabetes. If your cat does have diabetes, or is at least displaying some symptoms, here are a few helpful guidelines to keep your furry friend as happy and healthy as possible.
- pay close attention to your cat’s health and behavior
- schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if you notice certain symptoms
- recognize that cats with feline diabetes may have special health and dietary needs
- find the safest methods of exercise and environmental enrichment
- form a good relationship with your veterinarian
Always pay close attention to your cat’s health and behavior, but take special note when anything changes or seems out of the ordinary. The classic symptoms of diabetes in cats include: drinking excessive amounts of water, urinating more frequently (including accidents inside the house), excessive eating, and despite the ravenous appetite, weight loss. In some cats, loss of appetite and vomiting will occur if diabetes goes untreated for a prolonged period of time. Generally, cats that have a history of being overweight or are middle to older aged are at an elevated risk of feline diabetes. In addition, male cats are more commonly afflicted with diabetes. Make notes of any unusual behaviors and take these to your veterinarian.
When you notice the aforementioned symptoms, make an appointment to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. Make sure that you thoroughly explain the changes in your cat’s health and behavior that you noticed, and the frequency of these occurrences. Your veterinarian will then be able to conduct a physical exam, looking for physical changes associated with diabetes: weight loss, dehydration, poor quality hair coat, hind limb weakness, and possibly cataracts. In addition, your veterinarian will perform baseline blood work and a urinalysis to confirm the presence of diabetes, rule out other underlying conditions and determine the next step in treating your pet.
If it is determined that your cat has feline diabetes, do recognize that they have special health and dietary needs. Your veterinarian may recommend a regimen of injectable insulin or oral hypoglycemic products to control glucose levels, and may recommend a cat food specifically designed to treat feline diabetes (i.e. Purina DM). The ideal diet for a cat with diabetes is a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. High protein maximizes the body’s metabolic rate, helps your cat feel full and satisfied, and prevents muscle loss. A diet with low carbohydrate levels keeps blood sugar down, even after meals. Also, wet/canned foods with higher protein/lower carbohydrate levels are better than dry foods, which often are too calorically dense.
Even a cat with feline diabetes needs regular exercise for optimal health. If cats are outside, they are more stimulated and often more active, but the outdoor environment is also less regulated and presents more dangers for cats. If your cat is indoors, be sure to structure the environment so that it enriches your cat’s physical and mental health. You can use special perches, posts, and other structures, along with special toys, to encourage your cat to climb, jump and play. You can also use cat treats to encourage activity. The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine has a wonderful resource called The Indoor Pet Initiative that provides plenty of advice on how to properly care for an indoor cat – you can find out more at IndoorPet.
Your veterinarian is your partner in treating feline diabetes and keeping your cat as happy and healthy as possible. With proper veterinary and home care, many cats can go into diabetic remission, which can then be maintained on diet alone. Schedule regular veterinary checkups for your cat (semi-annual wellness checks are ideal for cats of all ages), and ask any questions you may have about caring for your cat with feline diabetes. With proper owner commitment and frequent communication with your veterinarian, your diabetic cat can live many healthy years.
Even if your cat has always been healthy, this does not mean they are not at risk to later develop feline diabetes. When you notice your cat showing diabetic symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian’s office to schedule an appointment. The sooner you notice and take action on the signs of feline diabetes, the better chance your cat has of living a more fulfilling life, perhaps even achieving diabetic remission.
A diagnosis of feline diabetes may come with a lot of fear for cat owners, but there really should be no reason for this unnecessary worry. Many people are afraid to give their cat insulin shots, others are afraid that feline diabetes is a life sentence for their cat (it is not). Even if diabetic remission does not occur, most insulin dependent diabetic cats can experience a good quality of life for many years after the original diagnosis. If you have fear of needles, express this to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can provide you with hands-on demonstrations, videos, and possible alternative treatment options. Don’t be afraid of the diagnosis – if you have a good relationship with your veterinarian, they will answer any questions you may have and help you work to improve the health and wellbeing of your cat.
Don’t worry about asking your veterinarian too many questions about feline diabetes. It is better to ask what you feel may be too many questions that too few questions. The more knowledge you have about the disease, the better positioned you are to help manage your cat’s condition. The management of diabetes is truly a team effort. Before you visit your veterinarian, it is helpful to come up with a list of important questions to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything. This will show that you are a responsible pet owner and ready to be an involved partner in caring for your cat’s health. After the initial visit, it may be helpful to keep a journal at home for follow up vet visits, documenting changes in appetite, activity level, water consumption, and urine output. This may guide your veterinarian in adjusting treatment.
As previously mentioned, a diagnosis of feline diabetes isn’t a life sentence. Though your cat has a health issue that requires careful attention, there is no need to severely restrict their activities. Often, diabetic cats are overweight. For these cats, weight loss is vital to successful treatment. In addition, leading an active lifestyle can actually help your cat achieve diabetic remission. You will certainly want to keep them away from any dangerous environments or other animals that may harm them, but regular play is important to maintaining your cat’s health.
Even though cats with feline diabetes may drink water excessively, don’t limit your cat’s water supply. They need adequate amounts of water to be able to survive and thrive with their condition. In order to accommodate this increased thirst, make sure that water is readily available wherever your cat goes. This may mean placing multiple water bowls around the house and outside, as well as keeping a water bottle and bowl handy when you are traveling with your cat. Accidental or purposeful restriction of water in a diabetic cat may lead to life threatening electrolyte abnormalities.
Feline diabetes is a dynamic condition that must be treated promptly and monitored frequently if you want your cat to be as healthy and happy as possible. Even with this knowledge, know that if you are a dedicated pet owner and maintain a strong, working relationship with your veterinarian, your cat is in good hands. Taking action on signs and symptoms and working to properly treat feline diabetes will go a long way in maintaining your cat’s overall health. Remember, this diagnosis is often totally treatable, and is fairly easy to manage if you follow the right treatment steps.
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